The Good Law Project has launched a judicial review challenge against five local authorities over the placement of children in care outside their local area and against the Education Secretary over the failure to force the councils to comply with their obligations.
The campaign group’s pre-action letter said the claim concerns:
- The alleged failure of the five local authorities – Essex, Cambridgeshire, West Sussex, Surrey and Derby City – to comply with their obligations under section 22G of the Children Act 1989, which imposes a general duty on each local authority to ensure that it takes steps to secure, so far as reasonably practicable, sufficient accommodation within its area to meet the needs of the children in its care; and
- The unlawful failure of the Secretary of State for Education to exercise, alternatively to lawfully consider exercising his power pursuant to section 84 of the CA89, “by which he may declare local authorities to be in breach of their obligations under section 22G of the CA89 and direct local authorities to comply with their obligations.
The Good Law Project said: “Time and again local authorities are placing children in care in the cheapest accommodation, rather than the accommodation that best meets their needs. For more than 30,000 children last year, this meant being torn away from their schools, loved ones and support networks – placed miles outside of their local area, often with no warning.”
It warned that children in distant placements were more vulnerable to criminal exploitation, trafficking and “county lines” than those who remain in their home area.
The Good Law Project said: “Councils have a legal duty to ensure that children in care are accommodated within their local area if that is in their best interests, which, for the vast majority of children, it will be. Out of area placements are intended to be a last resort. Yet, thousands of children are being sent miles away from everything and everyone they know.”
The Statement of Facts and Grounds can be read here.